Pope endorses Argentine bishops' document on Amoris Laetitia

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has written a letter to the bishops of the Buenos Aires region of Argentina, praising them for their document which spells out ways in which priests should apply the teachings of his apostolic exhortation ‘Amoris Laetitia’.

The Pope was responding to a document by the bishops entitled ‘Basic criteria for the application of chapter 8 of ‘Amoris Laetitia’ which details ways of ‘accompanying, discerning and integrating weakness’ for Catholics living in irregular family situations. That chapter focuses on the need to support and integrate divorcees into the life of the Church, specifying that “in certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments”.

In his letter the Pope underlines the urgency of formation of priests for the practice of discernment, stressing that this is central to the task of accompanying families in difficulty. He calls for in-depth catechesis on the exhortation which he says will “certainly help the growth, consolidation and holiness of family life”.

Expressing his appreciation for the ‘pastoral charity’ contained in the bishops’ document, Pope Francis insists “there are no other interpretations” of the apostolic exhortation which he wrote at the conclusion of the two synods on the family in 2014 and 2015.


Although a recently published set of guidelines for implementing Pope Francis’s document on the family in Argentina may have been only preliminary, the pontiff appears to have endorsed their main conclusion, which is that Amoris Laetitia opened the door to Communion for the divorced and remarried.


“the pontiff appears to have endorsed their main conclusion, which is that Amoris Laetitia opened the door to Communion for the divorced and remarried.”

That certainly would be a misreading and a misstatement.

The document notes that such is not to be said.

Certain* particular complex cases* with serious discernment by a Priest - does *not *open the door to Communion for the divorced and remarried.

Such would be a false reading.

Here an excerpt from a post Father Z. wrote yesterday about this:

"Here is the deal. Again, we do NOT have here the doors thrown open to official approval of Communion for anyone in any circumstance whatsoever. This is not carte blanche.

As a matter of fact, if we want to be fair to what has been written (rather clumsily and unclearly), were someone, some couple, to read and take seriously – with the help of a good, faithful priest – what Amoris said, and what the Argentinian thing said, not many people would be able to discern that they can honestly receive Communion.

I’ll also repeat that, those who are rightly disposed toward the Church’s teaching and laws will work with all of this in continuity with the Church’s entire body of teaching, in obedience and fidelity. Those who are not inclined to obedience and fidelity will continue to do whatever the heck they want, no matter what any Pope writes.

However, it seems to me that the way that this has all been handled, and the way this all will surely be reported, will open the door to abuses, abuses which I – for one – cannot fathom that any Pope would intend!

More on this later."


Check out the full commentary at the following link from Dr. Jeff Mirus:

Not heretical: Pope Francis’ approval of the Argentine bishops’ policy on invalid marriages

According to news reports, Pope Francis has commended the bishops of Argentina for recognizing that Amoris Laetitia permits Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics in some cases, without benefit of annulment. The result is that some Catholics are now saying that Pope Francis has crossed the line from doctrinal fuzziness to material heresy. But this is not at all the case.

The main factor in discerning such cases is that mortal sin requires not only grave matter (which clearly exists in invalid marriages) but also two personal conditions. The sinner must (a) Be aware that the moral breach is very serious; and (b) Commit the sin with full consent of the will. In the absence of these conditions, sins which involve objectively grave matter are venial. Hence they do not render the reception of Communion spiritually dangerous (cf., 1 Cor 11:27).

A likely particular case

Very briefly, then, I would argue that the following is the most likely scenario in which the presumption that only venial sin is involved may be reasonably justified:

An invalidly married couple has had children together, who are still at home.
Either the man or the woman recognizes the sinfulness of the “marriage”, regrets having entered into it, and desires now to do what is right (which in this case would be for the parents to live as brother and sister while still caring for their children as mother and father in the same household).
The other party refuses to live as brother and sister.
The other party says he (or she) will leave the family if sexual relations are refused.
Hence the man or woman in question continues sexual relations, in effect under duress, to ensure that his or her children are not deprived of one parent.
Now, even if we argue that the morally correct course is to separate from the unrepentant spouse and trust in God, it is easy to see that—at the very least—this would be hard to discern and, even if discerned, there would be tremendous fear of depriving one’s children of a family setting which includes both their mother and their father.

In this case, the continuing sins involved in the irregular union on the part of the repentant spouse would seem to be venial—on the grounds that full consent of the will to the moral evil of continued sexual relations is lacking. The sins would be rendered venial by either a very real confusion about the best course or the compulsion inherent in the particular situation, or both.

I have not yet seen the full text of the Pope’s letter. But the key point is that this remains a question of Church discipline—not doctrine—on which good Catholics can disagree. Neither position implies an erroneous understanding of the Church’s teaching on faith or morals.


English translation of the article which originally appeared in L’Osservatore Romano and was reprinted in full by Vatican Radio.

It is pastoral charity that urges one “to go out to encounter those who are far away and, once encountered, to begin a path of welcoming, accompaniment, discernment and integration into the ecclesial community.”

It is around this premise that the letter Pope Francis has sent to the bishops of Buenos Aires — addressing it to their delegate, Bishop Sergio Alfredo Fenoy — in response to the document “criterios básicos para la aplicación del capítulo viii laetitia de Amoris” (“Basic criteria for the application of the chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia”).

Expressing his appreciation for the text drafted by the bishops, the Pope highlighted how it manifests in its fullness the sense of Chapter 8 of the Apostolic Exhortation — which deals with “accompanying, discerning and integrating weakness” — clarifying that “that are no other interpretations.” The bishops’ document, the Pope said, “will do much good,” especially for that “pastoral charity” which runs through the whole of it.

The text drafted by the pastors of the Church in Argentina is “a true example of accompaniment to priests,” the Pope said, noting essential is the closeness“of the bishop to his clergy and clergy to the bishop.” In fact, he wrote, the “‘closest’ neighbor of the bishop is a priest and the commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself begins for us bishops precisely with our priests.”

Naturally, pastoral charity understood as the ongoing tension of seeking out those who are far away is tiring. It is a “hand to hand” pastoral care which cannot be reduced to “programmatic, organizational or legal mediation, although these are necessary.” Of the four “pastoral attitudes” indicated in the document — “welcome, accompaniment, discernment and integration” — the one least practiced, according to Francis, is discernment.

“I consider personal and communal formation in discernment in our seminaries and rectories to be urgent,” Francis stated. Lastly, the pope said that Amoris Laetitia was “the fruit of the work and prayer of the entire Church, with the mediation of two synods and the Pope.” He therefore recommended a thorough catechesis on the exhortation, which “certainly will help the growth, strengthening and holiness of the family.”

Focusing precisely on Chapter 8 of the Apostolic Exhortation, the document of the Argentine bishops state that “we should not speak of ‘permission’ to have access the Sacraments, but a process of discernment accompanied by a pastor.” This process must be “personal and pastoral.” Accompaniment is an exercise of the via caritatis, the document states, an invitation to follow the path of Jesus.

Such an itinerary, the bishops write, requires the pastoral charity of the priest, who “welcomes the penitent, listens to him attentively and shows him the maternal face of the Church, as he accepts his good intention and his good intention to place his whole life in the light of the Gospel and to practice charity.” This path, the warn, does not necessarily end in the Sacrament, but may lead to other forms of greater integration into the life of the Church: a greater presence in the community, participation in prayer or reflection groups, and a commitment to various forms of ecclesial service.

“When the concrete circumstances of a couple make it feasible, especially when both are Christians with a journey of faith, one may propose that they commit to living in continence.” Amoris Laetitia “does not ignore the difficulties of this option (cf. note 329) and leaves open the possibility of receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation when one fails in this intention” (cf. note 364).

“In other more complex circumstances, and when it is not possible to obtain a declaration of nullity,” the document continues, “the aforementioned option may not, in fact, be viable. Nonetheless, it is equally possible to undertake a journey of discernment.” And “if one arrives at the recognition that, in a concrete case, there are limitations that diminish responsibility and culpability (cf. 301-302), particularly when a person judges that he would fall into a subsequent fault by damaging the children of the new union, Amoris Laetitia opens up the possibility of access to the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (cf. notes 336 and 351). These in turn disposes the person to continue maturing and growing with the strength of grace.

Check out what Canon lawyer Edward Peters has to say:


He also commented about Jeff Mirius’ article (which I previously posted on this thread):


What is meant by “There are no other interpretations”? Should other bishops’ conferences give up on their own interpretative statements that may be in the works, and simply translate the Argentine document verbatim?:confused:

From the first link:

“Now, in his unequivocal endorsement (“There are no other interpretations possible” !]) of a leaked draft of some Argentine bishops’ plan for implementing his document Amoris laetitia, Pope Francis has neither ‘abrogated’ Canon 915 nor ‘interpreted’ it out of existence (both being the sort of technical operations the pope shows little interest in). Nevertheless, his action will likely make it harder for Catholic ministers, who remain bound by canon law even in stressful cases, to observe Canon 915 at the practical level.”

So what does all this mean in plain English? Are the divorced and remarried allowed to receive communion or not?

but it would be ok for children to grow up in such a cohersive family environment?

I have a really hard time understanding all of this. ok, there may be some complex cases that I havn’et thought of, I’m not an expert of all the weird things that could go on between two people

but if my so-called husband tried to rape me or kill me or threaten to abandon me, whatever. I’m taking myself and my children out of there. and the church certainly allows for this.

if you’re not in that situation a nymore, well the communion problem goes away too

I get that ignorance and confusion can play a part, but how long can a person claim venial sin? especially if they are discerning with a priest?

anyways, I think this is supposed to be reserved in the rarest of cases

he’s right, I mean if some couple just wanted to take communion, they could just go up for it. they wouldn’t even need to tell a priest about their situation, who is going to stop them? no one, nobody would even know. only themselves and God, of course

And this is the dilemma of many many Christians. Who really seeks to receive communion in a clear and formed conscience?

Ultimately, communion requires personal conviction to receive in a worthy manner. This conviction ought to be influenced by Church Teaching, or obedience to Church Teaching. But we sometimes excuse ourselves from this observance. And when we do this, we just take His Communion as if we are justified because we have the ability to just go up and receive.

But some will be confronted by members, who are aware of their apparent situation. And it does cause scandal to others who are aware. And when this is compounded by millions of Catholics worldwide, we start to lose confidence in the position of the Church. And their is questioning, and accusations. The Church tries to handle something that is actually not the sole responsibility of the hierarchy. We as individuals are responsible for our lack of purity and devotion and ability to admonish one another in the Spirit of Godliness.

We know the laws of marriage, and we know how to for our conscience, and we know that we ought to pray, and reconcile our problems with God and our brothers. But we are dragged down by sin, and the Church Militant becomes dysfunctional. That’s where we are; dysfunctional and laden with issues and sins. So we expect the hierarchy to Teach us out of it. Well,… it won’t happen. Only personal conviction will lead to a Church receiving Communion in a worthy manner.

In short: It depends.:smiley: I’m sure you didn’t need to be proficient in Aramaic, Greek, Hebrew, philosophy, be a genius in theology and law to understand Jesus’s teaching. Now, I’m afraid, that’s the bare minimum. I wonder if this was the original plan… Take 10 canon lawyers, and not all will agree on just what it means and entails.

there are always those who think that the rules don’t apply to them

I see similar articles posted on facebook and the comment sections are full of things like “well, I’m remarried and in myopinion, I’m fine before God because I beliee that my first marriage wasn’t real. Jesus never judged, he accepted all sinners therefore I believe I have a right to communion and no one can stop me”

besides the fact that they never took the marriage to a tribunal, besides the fact that they never discussed with a priest, besides the fact that Jesus, yes accepted sinners and met people where they were at but then exhorted them to turn away from their sin

that’s what happens when communion is seen as a right that is entitled to instead of a gift and privilege that no one is really worthy to receive, honestly. much less if we have unrepentant sins on our souls.

and I don’t say in condemnation of anyone, we are all good at trying to justify our way out of things, I’ve done it too and thinking that we are better than we actually are

I think the big question is, Is this unprecedented ?

I think we need to remember. As Americans, and Westerners in general, we have an extremely liberal annulment process. As such it’s hard for us to imagine a case where one could not get an annulment and thus uses another way to reconcile with the church. There really is not much of a need here for this.

But the church is a universal church and other parts of the world may need this. If they have a process resulting in far fewer annulments this may be the path.

Ultimately, the church is making it so their are several pastoral pathways for someone to reconcile with God and the church. Maybe that’s annulment, maybe that’s discernment with a priest that one was not fully culpable if the sun of remarriage, maybe it’s saying the couple lives as brother and sister, etc…

We should be open to understanding how this involves the entire world and not just us in our little corner of it.

Good point, Jon. It’s easy for me to forget that the “just about anything goes” attitude so commonly seen in the western Church isn’t the case everywhere.

Robert Royal of “The Catholic Thing” has just weighed in. It looks like he is in the “less-than-thrilled” camp:


Article from NCRegister:


To be honest, this is nothing more than what a literal reading of the text would suggest. :shrug:

However, while I think cries of “heresy”, “sede vacante” and “anti-Pope” are premature, I would still like to make two observations:

  1. This move seems imprudent, because (a) it is hard to square with Church practice thus far, and (b) it is liable to be abused, especially by “liberal”-minded clergy. That said, we are standing too close to this to have a sense of perspective. Only history will reveal if this was a dangerous and weakening move, or simply a common-sense one like the relaxation of the number of Confessions permitted.

  2. I would not be very surprised if a future Pontiff rolled this move back. :wink:

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